In a decision last week, the FCC fined a radio station $4000 for broadcasting the message from someone’s telephone answering machine without permission. The FCC’s rules forbid the broadcast of a telephone call without permission (and the recording of a phone call for broadcast without permission). So, a station violates the rule when a caller says "hello" before giving permission for the call is broadcast (except in cases where the caller is presumed to know that they may be put on the air, e.g. if they call into a call-in show where callers are regularly put on the air). Here, the Commission made clear that the airing of even a voicemail or answering machine message without permission violates the rule.
This case is also interesting in that the licensee tried to avoid liability by saying that the infraction occurred during a program that was under the control of an independent contractor who had bought a block of time from the station in which the contractor aired programming that he produced. The FCC reiterated the importance of a licensee maintaining control over all programming that is aired on a station, even if it is provided by a contractor. Years ago, the FCC even revoked the license of stations that were broadcasting lottery information during brokered programming, in a foreign language that the licensee did not understand. In those cases, the FCC made clear that a licensee had to take steps to understand what was being broadcast on its airwaves. This most recent case should remind stations that sell blocks of time that they need to monitor those blocks to make sure that all broadcasts comply with FCC rules.